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Javier Ruiz del Solar: “We need 20 years to fully automate mining”

In his intervention today as key speaker at the UMining 2018 international congress, Javier Ruiz del Solar, Executive Director of the AMTC, talked about the current state of automation technology in mining and its future challenges.

In his lecture he summarized the current tendencies in automation and robotics in the mining area: autonomous vehicles, new sensors, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence (specifically, deep learning and machine learning), big data and the Internet of things. He remarked that such tendencies and developments aim mainly to improve the safety of mining workers (by withdrawing them from hazardous environments), to improve productivity and to reduce operational costs.

However, although there is a path leading to a full automation of mining operations, it is a long one: “We need at least 20 years of developments to reach a 100% autonomous machine- operated mining”, Dr. Ruiz del Solar stated. This is because of the challenges technology faces: autonomous machines have to be able to operate in highly dynamic environments (with an increased number of variable physical elements), with a high number of visual obstacles and performing medium o high complexity tasks.

To achieve that goal, he proposed a cooperative system in which humans and machines interact “in a flexible, collaborative, sinergic way”, and he exemplified with the current development of a LHD vehicel with autonomous loading, carried on by the AMTC. The technological challenge is to make the LHD autonomously load fractured material (variable granulometry) submitted to high vertical effort, a task that at best is remotely operated. The way the AMTC is following is to make load autonomous but collaborative, that is, with human assistance on demand.

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